Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, the founder of Jews for Judaism, sounds forth on Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, who died last week. Rabbi Kravitz, as my mother used to say, gives Rosen gut gesucht.
He believed….that unless you believe in Jesus, you will burn in hell. This included the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Rosen aggressively targeted Jews for conversion and is responsible for the loss of many young Jews and the destruction of numerous Jewish families. His most deceptive tactic promoted the notion that a Jew can be Jewish and Christian at the same time. However, he simultaneously condemned Judaism as a “false religion.”
All of the parents of baby boomers grieved when their children joined weird, coercive cults–Scientology, Moonies, ISKCON, the Family of God. But I suspect that post-holocaust Jewish parents grieved even harder when their children became Jews for Jesus. They might not have believed in Judaism themselves, but after Hitler they would never deny who they were. By converting their children and then brainwashing them into believing that they were still Jewish, Rosen accomplished as intimate and cruel an act of subversion and cultural theft as could be imagined.
Rosen was not the first Jewish convert to evangelize his former co-religionists. In Barcelona in 1263, a Dominican friar known as Pablo Christiani, a converted Jew, debated the great Jewish philosopher Nachmanides on the question of whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, drawing on the Tanakh and the Talmud for his proofs (the contest was judged by King James I of Aragon). Two accounts of the debate have come down to us. In the one that’s written in Latin, the rabbi lamely maintains that the Talmudic texts that acknowledge Jesus’s divinity were mere “sermons in which their teachers often lied,” and slinks away in disgrace and defeat. In the Hebrew account, written by Nachmanides himself, he eviscerates his adversary: If “the sages of the Talmud believed in Jesus as the messiah,” he asks, “Why did they not convert and turn to the faith of Jesus…as Friar Paul, who understands their teachings better than they themselves do?” The Ramban had a point. Twentythree years earlier, in Paris, Nicholas Donin, an excommunicated Jew who’d become a Franciscan, had put the Talmud on trial for its supposed immorality and insults to Christianity. The rabbis Yechiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry defended it in vain; twentyfour cartloads of the books were seized and publicly burned.
Successionism, the idea that Christianity supplanted and nullified Judaism, is implicit in Christianity (though most likely not in Jesus’s actual teachings)–it is after all why the Gospels are called the “New” testament. After two thousand years of pogroms, Inquisitions, and organized and spontaneous persecutions culminating in the shoah, most mainstream Christians today take a much more ecumenical approach to Judaism–they are willing to allow a statue of limitations on Judaism’s alleged complicity in Jesus’s crucifixion; they concede that Jews worship the same God as they do. But saved is saved, and Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians alike believe that salvation comes through Jesus or the Church.
The rise of Millennialist Protestantism in the late nineteenth century, when Israel and the Jews took on an essential role in a variety of End Times scenarios, blurred this absolute distinction between the faiths. Jesus’s Jewishness became an important issue for Seventh Day Adventists, particularly those who followed Herbert W. Armstrong into the Worldwide Church of God. So-called Messianic Jews are Christians who take up Jewish dietary and ritual practices (and some former Jews who maintained their old rituals after converting). But while Christians can experiment with Jewish identity without suffering too much cognitive dissonance, a Jew cannot accept Jesus’s divinity without abandoning his or her essential Jewishness. Even non-believing Jews know this in their bones.
Moishe Rosen left a posthumous message on the Jews for Jesus website that made his own stance crystal clear.
I hope I can count on you to show love and respect for the Jewish people, but Jewishness never saved anybody. Judaism never saved anybody no matter how sincere. Romans 10:9 & 10 make it clear that we must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy way. Within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism.